A Great Article to introduce Y2k to family and open-minded DGIs

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Electronic News is a semiconductor industry publication that has done nothing (as far as I can tell) regarding Y2k awareness until this week, when the following article appeared. This is a pretty easy-to-understand and pretty convincing short article. I think it is good for presenting to relatives and neighbors who need a little nudging.


Conventional Wisdom Fails to Conquer Y2K By Robert Theobald

Y2K has challenged the very heart of Western industrial-era philosophy. We are the inheritors of a tradition that claimed the ability to order the world as we wished. This worldview has deep roots. It got stronger when Newton developed a mechanical set of images. Humanity came to see the world as a watch wound up by God. We lived within fixed conditions. Our actions were constrained by cause and effect relationships.

We have now developed this set of ideas to their ultimate level. We organize our lives as though nothing can or will go wrong. The most visible of these philosophies is seen in "just in time" strategies. These assume that all the goods and services one needs to produce a particular product can be scheduled so precisely that stocks can be kept to a minimum.

Government reactions to Y2K are based clearly and directly on current dominant thinking. It is argued that Y2K cannot possibly be a serious problem because it is not in the self-interest of firms or governments to allow disruption. This comfortable position assumes that governments and firms really understand what is changing in the world and they can therefore be in charge. My whole thesis denies this statement.

The thinking of those in charge of policy-making in our world is bounded by the ideas they accept. We were unable to deal with the Great Depression of the '30s because of the economic theories that were dominant at the time. We were unable to avoid World War II because of the patterns we built after World War I.

Our failure to understand Y2K is only one example of a pervasive failure. We are living in a cultural trance. The good news is that people are far further along in breaking out of the trance than we realize. The bad news is that few of our governance systems are moving with the new understandings that have already developed. Y2K challenges the comfortable belief in humanity's control over the world.

It suggests that the real need is to deal with issues as they arise rather than to have contingency plans for everything that could possibly happen. It places a premium on flexibility and human relationships rather than structure and order. It argues that mistakes are inevitable and that systems work well when they accept this reality rather than deny it.

Why are current governmental policies toward Y2K irresponsible? Here are the basic reasons. Firms in the United States and elsewhere in the developed world have spent billions of dollars on dealing with Y2K. It seems impossible to me that most of this money was wasted. I have to assume, and this is all I can do for I am not a technology expert, that this was necessary.

But if it was necessary, then there are implications that cannot be ignored. We know, for certain, that certain States and counties have done far less work than others. It follows, then that those who live in these areas are at risk.

We also know that many medium and small firms are not aware of, or alternatively not willing or able to spend money on, Y2K. While their systems will certainly have lesser problems than large companies, they are also typically far less able to withstand shocks. Statistics show that natural disasters lead to large number of bankruptcies among local firms: Y2K has the same disastrous potential.

And we also know, most seriously, that little work on Y2K has been done in many countries. While activity is now starting, it is too late to tackle many of the most critical systems. Once again, unless one is willing to assume that firms and governments in countries such as Great Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia have been wasting huge amounts of money, it is clear that there will be considerable problems. In today's interconnected world, this means that there will inevitably be knock-on effects in the developed world.

This is the first in a series of Viewpoint articles excerpted from author Robert Theobald's recent speech: "Death and Rebirth: Explaining the Dynamics of 1999." Theobald's most recent book is titled "Reworking Success."

-- Rick (rick7@postmark.net), June 08, 1999


I looked up Theobold and checked out his web site. The stuff seems pretty wispy to me, like a spacey sociology course. You know not much substance.


He is a futurist, that's a new one for me, but anyway, he stresses the change that the future brings, and the 2 digit date issue is just one factor in this world's future. At the risk of being a cut and paste Polly, he says the following:

Even the most radical scenarios for Y2K seem to assume that there will no fundamental discontinuities. This is perhaps most noticeable, and most startling, in the case of survivalist visions. The basic assumption on which they are based is that it will be necessary to get out of the cities because law and order will break down. And yet it also seems to be assumed that those who stock food and other necessities will be left in peace to enjoy them. In actual fact, of course, those people who are prepared to be the most violent will simply seize the resources which others have prepared for them.

-- Polyester (Pollyester@dacron.net), June 08, 1999.

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